Hugo vs. Pelican: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two Popular Content Management Systems

Hugo vs. Pelican: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two Popular Content Management Systems


Welcome to our in-depth comparison of Hugo and Pelican, two popular Content Management Systems (CMS) that can help organizations manage and publish their content effectively. Choosing the right CMS is crucial for digital leaders and decision-makers, as it directly impacts the success of their online presence. In this guide, we will explore the features and capabilities of Hugo and Pelican, providing you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

Foundations of CMS

Both Hugo and Pelican are static-site generators, which means they build web pages in advance and deliver them to visitors as static HTML files. This approach offers several advantages, including faster page loading times, improved security, and easier version control. Hugo is built with Go programming language, known for its speed and efficiency, while Pelican is built with Python. Both CMS are open-source, meaning the source code is freely available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute.

One key difference between Hugo and Pelican is their templating languages. Hugo uses its own Go-based templating system, which is known for its simplicity and speed. Pelican, on the other hand, uses Jinja, a popular and powerful templating language for Python. Both systems allow for extensive customization and flexibility in designing the website's layout and structure.

In terms of ease of use, Hugo offers a more user-friendly experience with its intuitive command-line interface and extensive documentation. Pelican requires some familiarity with Python and may have a steeper learning curve for those new to programming. However, for developers comfortable with Python, Pelican provides great flexibility and control over the website's functionality.

Lastly, both Hugo and Pelican support version control systems like Git, allowing teams to collaborate on content creation and easily revert to previous versions if needed. This ensures that changes can be tracked and managed effectively, making both CMS suitable for team-based projects.

Design & User Experience

Hugo and Pelican offer a range of themes and templates to choose from, allowing users to create visually appealing and modern websites. Hugo has a larger theme marketplace with numerous options, including both free and premium themes. It provides a convenient theme installation process, making it easy to switch between different designs. Pelican also offers various themes, although the selection is slightly smaller. However, users can customize the themes extensively to match their specific design requirements.

When it comes to user experience, both CMS provide a straightforward and intuitive interface for managing and organizing content. Hugo offers a live-reload feature, allowing users to see the changes they make instantly, which can be a time-saver during the website development process. Pelican's interface is clean and minimalistic, making it easy to navigate and work with. It also offers a built-in development server, enabling users to preview their website locally before publishing it.

In terms of mobile responsiveness, both Hugo and Pelican generate websites that are fully responsive and optimized for various screen sizes. This is important for delivering a seamless user experience across different devices, as more people access websites from their smartphones and tablets. Additionally, both CMS provide SEO-friendly URLs, customizable meta tags, and other features that can help improve search engine visibility.

Overall, the choice between Hugo and Pelican for design and user experience will depend on your specific design requirements and preferences. Hugo has a larger theme marketplace, while Pelican offers extensive customization options.

Content Management

Content management is a fundamental aspect of any CMS, and both Hugo and Pelican excel in this area. Both systems allow you to create and manage content using a familiar file and folder structure, which can be beneficial for those accustomed to working with plain text files.

Hugo: Hugo comes with a user-friendly content creation and management process. The content is written in plain Markdown, allowing for easy formatting and editing. Hugo supports content sections, taxonomies, and front matter metadata, enabling you to organize and categorize your content effectively. It also provides built-in shortcodes and custom content types for more advanced content management needs.

Pelican: Pelican follows a similar content management approach, with content written in Markdown or reStructuredText. It offers content organization using categories, tags, and authors. Additionally, Pelican supports powerful content plugins and extensions, allowing you to further enhance your content management capabilities. These plugins enable you to include syntax highlighting, citations, footnotes, and more in your articles.

Both CMS support content pagination, allowing you to display your content in a paginated format, which can be helpful for large blogs or content-rich websites. Moreover, both CMS integrate well with external databases and APIs, enabling you to pull content from other sources or include dynamic data within your static site.

In conclusion, both Hugo and Pelican provide robust and flexible content management systems, allowing you to create, organize, and publish your content effectively.

Collaboration & User Management

Collaboration and user management are crucial features for organizations working on content creation with a team. Both Hugo and Pelican offer solutions in this area, although there are some differences between the two.

Hugo: Hugo supports a simple but effective workflow for team collaboration. Users can work on separate branches in a Git repository, and changes can be merged easily. Hugo supports user roles and permissions, allowing you to define access levels for different team members. This is useful when you want to grant publishing rights to certain individuals while restricting access to others. Additionally, Hugo integrates with popular hosting platforms like Netlify and GitHub Pages, making it seamless to publish and host your website.

Pelican: Pelican also provides options for team collaboration and user management. Multiple authors can contribute to the website's content, with each author having their own profile and permissions. Pelican supports user authentication, ensuring that only authorized individuals can make changes to the site. It also integrates well with version control systems like Git, allowing teams to collaborate efficiently.

Both CMS provide the necessary features for team collaboration and user management, ensuring that your organization can work together effectively on content creation.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

Performance, scalability, and hosting are key considerations for organizations when choosing a CMS. Let's explore how Hugo and Pelican fare in these areas.

Performance: Hugo is renowned for its exceptional performance. It leverages its static site generation approach to deliver lightning-fast websites. This means that each visitor receives pre-built HTML files, eliminating the need for server-side rendering or database queries. The result is a highly performant website with minimal loading times.

Pelican also offers good performance, though it may not be as fast as Hugo due to the nature of the Python-based templating system. However, when appropriately optimized and hosted on a fast server, Pelican can still deliver excellent performance without compromising user experience.

Scalability: Hugo and Pelican are both highly scalable CMS. Since they generate static HTML files, there is no additional load added to the server when scaling the website to accommodate high traffic spikes. Both CMS can comfortably handle large amounts of simultaneous visitors without performance degradation.

Hosting: Both CMS can be hosted on a wide range of hosting providers, including shared hosting, virtual private servers (VPS), or cloud platforms like AWS and Google Cloud. Due to their static nature, they are lightweight and have low hosting requirements, making them compatible with almost any hosting environment.

In summary, both Hugo and Pelican offer excellent performance, scalability, and hosting options, allowing organizations to deliver fast and reliable websites to their audience.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

Customization, extensions, and ecosystem are essential aspects for organizations looking to expand the functionality of their CMS. Let's see how Hugo and Pelican measure up in this regard.

Customization: Hugo offers extensive customization options through its themes and templates. With its vast theme marketplace, you can choose from numerous designs for your website. Additionally, Hugo allows you to create custom shortcodes and content types, giving you full control over the website's structure and functionality.

Pelican is highly customizable as well, allowing you to modify and extend your website's design. Its support for Jinja templating language allows for powerful and flexible customization options. You can create custom plugins and extensions to enhance the functionality of your website according to your specific requirements.

Extensions & ecosystem: Hugo has a robust and active community that contributes to its ecosystem. It offers a wide range of plugins and extensions, allowing you to extend the core functionality of the CMS. Additionally, Hugo integrates seamlessly with popular external services and APIs, enabling you to leverage a wide range of tools and resources.

Pelican also has an active developer community, providing various plugins and extensions to enhance your website's features. The Python ecosystem is vast, with numerous libraries and frameworks that can be leveraged to further extend the capabilities of your Pelican site.

Both CMS provide ample opportunities for customization and offer extensive ecosystems to enhance the functionality of your website.

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

For organizations aiming to boost their online visibility, drive traffic, and monetize their website, SEO, marketing, and monetization features are crucial. Let's explore how Hugo and Pelican address these areas.

SEO: Hugo and Pelican generate static HTML files that are inherently search engine friendly. Both CMS produce clean and semantic code, allowing search engines to easily crawl and index your website. They also provide features like customizable meta tags, XML sitemaps, and canonical URLs, which are important for search engine optimization.


Hugo and Pelican offer integration options with various marketing tools and platforms. For example, you can integrate Hugo or Pelican with Google Analytics to track website traffic and user behavior. Additionally, both CMS support social media integration, allowing you to connect your website with popular social media platforms and enable social sharing features.


Both CMS provide the necessary features to monetize your website effectively. You can integrate advertising platforms like Google AdSense or affiliate marketing solutions to generate revenue from your content. Additionally, both Hugo and Pelican can integrate with e-commerce platforms or payment gateways, allowing you to sell products or services directly from your website.

Overall, both Hugo and Pelican offer comprehensive SEO, marketing, and monetization features, enabling organizations to maximize their online presence and revenue generation.

Security & Compliance

Security and compliance are critical considerations for any organization managing sensitive content or dealing with user data. Let's see how Hugo and Pelican address these aspects.

Security: Hugo and Pelican offer enhanced security due to their static nature. Since they do not require server-side processing or databases, the attack surface is significantly reduced. Additionally, both CMS provide support for SSL encryption, ensuring secure communication between the website and its visitors.

Compliance: Both Hugo and Pelican allow organizations to adhere to various compliance requirements, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). Organizations can implement necessary measures within the CMS to ensure data protection and privacy compliance.

However, it's important to note that compliance goes beyond the CMS itself and also involves good privacy practices, secure hosting, and appropriate data handling procedures implemented by the organization.

Migration, Support, & Maintenance

Migrating between CMS, receiving support, and keeping up with maintenance are essential aspects of managing a website. Let's examine how Hugo and Pelican handle these responsibilities.

Migration: Migrating from one CMS to another can be a complex process, depending on the size and complexity of the website. Both Hugo and Pelican provide detailed documentation and guidelines to assist users with the migration process. Additionally, their static nature simplifies the migration, as content is stored as plain text files.

Support: Hugo and Pelican have active and supportive communities that provide assistance through forums, online chat groups, and documentation. Additionally, both CMS offer detailed official documentation, providing step-by-step guides and explanations for various features and processes.

Maintenance: Hugo and Pelican require minimal maintenance compared to traditional CMS. Since they generate static HTML files, there are no databases to maintain or software updates to worry about. However, regular backups of the content and configuration files are still recommended to ensure data integrity.

In conclusion, both Hugo and Pelican provide resources and support to assist with migration, offer active communities for assistance, and require minimal maintenance compared to traditional CMS.


After comparing Hugo and Pelican across various aspects, it's clear that both CMS have their strengths and cater to different needs. Hugo is user-friendly, has a larger theme marketplace, and comes with a more intuitive interface. On the other hand, Pelican offers deep customization and powerful content management capabilities for developers familiar with Python.

If your organization values simplicity, ease of use, and a thriving community, Hugo may be the better choice. However, if customization and developer flexibility are key priorities, Pelican might be the CMS that suits your needs.

Ultimately, the right CMS for your organization depends on your specific requirements, available resources, and technical expertise. We recommend trying both CMS, exploring their features, and considering any specific needs or preferences your organization might have before making a decision.


Martin Dejnicki
Martin Dejnicki

Martin is a digital product innovator and pioneer who built and optimized his first website back in 1996 when he was 16 years old. Since then, he has helped many companies win in the digital space, including Walmart, IBM, Rogers, Canada Post, TMX Group and TD Securities. Recently, he worked with the Deploi team to build an elegant publishing platform for creative writers and a novel algorithmic trading platform.